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Former Club Owner to Pay $1.5 Million in Drowning Case

The partial restitution will go to the parents of 4-year-old Yoni Gottesman, who died at a Cathedral Oaks Athletics Club summer camp

[Noozhawk’s note: Yoni Gottesman had been left alone in the pool and it was eight minutes before he was discovered face down in the water. An earlier version of this story was incorrect and the article has been corrected below.]

Six months after a jury ruled that more than $16 million in damages be awarded to the parents of 4-year-old Yoni Gottesman, who drowned at a local athletic club, former club owner Richard Berti will pay $1.5 million in partial settlement to the family.

Santa Barbara Superior Court Judge Thomas Anderle entered the final judgment in the case Monday. A jury passed a verdict earlier this year in which $13.9 million in compensatory damages were awarded.

Yoni drowned in the swimming pool of Cathedral Oaks Athletic Club in August 2005, on his first day of summer camp.

Video from a security camera at the club showed Yoni being dunked in the pool by a lifeguard. He was later left alone and it was eight minutes before he was discovered face down in the pool. Attempts to revive him failed.

Yoni’s parents, Oded and Anat Gottesman, sued the club, its management company and several club managers.

“Shortly after Yoni died, Berti began orchestrating the fraudulent conveyance of his assets, intending to avoid having to pay personally for his misconduct,” Barry Cappello, one of the attorneys representing the Gottesmans, said in a statement released Monday. “Having judgment entered on this portion of the case finally has closed this sordid chapter surrounding the willful misconduct in the death of Yoni Gottesman, and the attempt by Berti to hide his assets after Yoni’s death.”

However, Berti’s attorney, John Levitt, maintains that the 74-year-old was merely engaging in estate planning that had nothing to do with Gottesman’s death.

A court determined in February that Berti had no individual liability for Yoni’s death.

“Over the years since this tragic event, Mr. Berti has attempted to reach out to the Gottesmans, on many different occasions, though several different avenues, but the Gottesmans have continually rejected Mr. Berti’s efforts,” Levitt said.  “They continue to attempt to portray Mr. Berti as an uncaring ogre when, in reality, the truth is far different.”

“We are suffering Yoni’s loss day by day,” Oded Gottesman said. “We’re here today because Berti’s operation took Yoni’s life.”

The statement said the family intends to use the money they receive to increase pool safety awareness and drowning prevention through The Yoni Gottesman Foundation.

Noozhawk staff writer Lara Cooper can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).

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